|Poster:||light into ashes||Date:||Jan 26, 2011 1:03pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||more Europe '72 recording info|
|Poster:||dead-head_Monte||Date:||Jan 28, 2011 5:20pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|
1972 Preparations were being made for a big European Tour with the Dead. The album would be simply named, "Europe '72". Ron was entrenched in redesigning the Ampex MM-1000 from the existing transport that accommodated 10" reels as it was not adequate to capture as much of the live performance without interruption as possible. Since you could never plan on how long the Dead would play once they got started on a jamming session, a trademark of theirs to say the least, it was better to be prepared and plan ahead. After all, you might miss the most exotic combination of notes right when it was necessary to change the reels of tape, bummer city.
Ron Wickersham was additionally transforming the MM-1000 from its unwieldy flat transport with eight tracks on top and eight tracks below into a video transport that would accommodate the 14" reels as well as redesign it to 30ips to improve the sound quality and reduce the drop-out rate. The engineers at Ampex thought this was a pretty cool idea and dropped on by to take notes.
|Ampex MM-1000 16-track audio tape recorder||Ampex VR-1200 video tape recorder|
Ron stripped out the Audio electronics and the Audio headstacks from the MM-1000 16-track ATR. Then he stripped out the Audio headstacks and the Audio and Video electronics from the VR-1200 VTR. Then he installed the MM-1000 16-track Audio headstacks and the Audio electronics into the VR-1200's frame. He may have made some design modifications to the VR-1200's tape transport and electronics to get it to work perfectly.
2-inch quadruplex (also called 2″ quad, or just quad, for short) video tape recording was the first practical and commercially successful videotape format. It was developed and released for the broadcast television industry in 1956 by Ampex. The USA used NTSC 525/30 video format. The quad's tape speeds for NTSC format ran at 7½ or 15 ips. So that means the Audio recording speeds for the VR-1200 were either 7½ or 15 inches per second.
Essentially, it's almost like he "borrowed money" from the Grateful Dead, and "borrowed money" from Warner Bros. Ron was building the most awesome "taper's" audio tape recorder in the world. Alembic would record the Europe '72 tour on a 16-track ATR, using larger 14-inch tape reels, and recording at 15 ips. He originally worked as an audio design engineer for Ampex.
Ampex MM-1000 16-track tape recorder gutted
Both tape decks had a high-end capstan motor. The capstan drive system is what moves the tape at exactly the correct tape speed. The tape guides align the tape so that the tape moves perfectly across the video heads and the audio heads during recordings and playbacks. The capstan shaft is what pulls the tape. Pinch rollers were used with the capstan servo on both of these tape deck models. The capstan shaft's rotation is balanced by a flywheel, providing ultra-smooth motion. These tape decks had the ability to consistently provide accurate tape speeds in Recording modes and Playback modes, with minimal wow and flutter errors.
The reel motor drive amplifiers are providing the tape tension servo in recording and playback modes. The supply reel motor drive amp provides the correct amount of supply motor current for perfect hold-back tension. The take-up reel motor drive amp provides the correct amount of take-up motor current for perfect take-up tension. Tape tension arms, located on both sides of the recording heads, have tape-guiding sensors that get electrically translated. Tension arm positions are sensed with electronics. These signals get processed. Feedback information is sent to the reel servo electronics to keep the tape tensions perfect. Recording engineers in Audio Studios, TV Stations, and Production Studios used Ampex audio and video tape recorders all around the world.
In September 2009, Bear told me that Ron had nothing to do with Ampex when he started Alembic. Bear said Ron left Ampex some time before. Bear told me Ron worked for a while with them on recording projects, but was never 'hired' by the band, so Lenny Hart had nothing to do with him. Bear brought Rick Turner, a maker of acoustic guitars, together with Ron and suggested they form Alembic. The idea was to work on sound systems, and to make fine modern guitars and basses. Bear said he did not want or accept a position or stake in the company because he had his hands full with the band. He said Susan and Rick do not get along and she is adamant about refusing him co-founder status in her 'history'. In Bear's opinion this is misleading and a disregard for the true history of the enterprise. Bear said he remains good friends with all of them.
Ron was able to take Bear's idea and start Alembic Sound. Once he formed Alembic, Ron may have received perks and weasel-deals on equipment from Ampex. Since Ron was an ex-Ampex audio design engineer, free tech support from Ampex would have been widely available from his engineer pals there (probably).
Ron Wickersham was very involved in developing The Grateful Dead's wall of sound. The sound quality from Phil's Alembic bass is legendary. Alembic speaker cabinets with JBLs were used by the Dead for their PA system. Ron Wickersham wrote the technical document for the wall of sound.
Ron Wickersham is a friggin' genius! How did he do it?
|Poster:||He Live's||Date:||Jan 26, 2011 7:11pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|
|Poster:||jimemc||Date:||Sep 5, 2011 10:07pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|
|Poster:||Roogalator||Date:||Jan 4, 2012 10:59pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|
|Poster:||Monte B Cowboy||Date:||Mar 10, 2014 8:03am|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more info about Ampex|
My story is dedicated to Jerry Garcia!
|This story is a freaked-out, hippie-essay about my funky electronics career!|
What are "The Dead Community's hippie-roots"? This was discussed and explained in 1967 by Jer, Phil, Bobby and Ramrod. The Dead's 'Hippie Temptation film clip' is a 7-minute-long "mockumentary news package" that was produced by Harry Reasoner for CBS News.
Jerry describes the Grateful Dead community's framework. "What we're thinking about is a peaceful planet. We're not thinking of anything else. We're not thinking about any kind of power. We're not thinking about any of those kinds of struggles. We're not thinking about revolution or war or any of that. That's not what we want. Nobody wants to get hurt. Nobody wants to hurt anybody. We would all like to be able to live an uncluttered life, a simple life, a good life and think about moving the whole human race ahead a step." – Jerry Garcia, Summer of Love, 1967
"It seems pathetic that it has to be us who are publicizing the plight of the rainforest, with all the other citizens of the planet, and all the other resources out there, but since no one else is doing anything about it, we don't really have any choice." – Jerry Garcia, September 13, 1988
|This work is licensed under a Creative Commons attribution.|
I'm granting this Attribution for NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International.
Attention Filmmakers! "I'm 'doubling-down' on my undeleting work for historians about Jerry, Newgrass music, Ampex, and myself!" I've been around creative people all my life. I can do this by myself, if I have to. I could really use your help! I'm not a writer. Peace, out. – Monte Barry, March 10, 2014
|© Monte B Cowboy • all rights reserved • MonteVideo Grafix • a 420-seed, non-organization|
- photo of me typing this for The Archive -
Ampex's Audio-Video Systems Division factory, 600 Wooten Rd, Colorado Springs, CO
Ampex once employed as many as 1,600 people in this 239,000-square-foot facility
Harry Lillis "Bing" Crosby (May 3, 1903 – October 14, 1977) was an American singer and actor. Crosby's trademark bass-baritone voice made him one of the best-selling recording artists of the 20th century, with over half a billion records in circulation. A multimedia star from 1934 to 1954, Bing Crosby was a leader in record sales, radio ratings and motion picture grosses. His early career coincided with technical recording innovations. This allowed him to develop a laid-back, intimate singing style that influenced many of the popular male singers who followed him, including Perry Como, Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin.
Crosby exerted an important influence on the development of the post-war tape recording industry. He worked for NBC at the time and wanted to record his shows. Most broadcast networks did not allow recording. This was mainly because the audio fidelity of the recordings at the time was poor. That quickly changed when tape bias optimization(s) was "invented." "Tape bias is the term for two phenomena, DC bias and AC bias, that improve the fidelity of analogue magnetic tape sound recordings." [ source: Wikipedia, Tape bias ]
Magnetophon from a German radio station in World War II
[ source: Wikipedia, Reel-to-reel audio tape recording ]
While in Europe performing during World War two, Crosby had witnessed "tape recording (with optimized bias?)," on which The Crosby Research Foundation would come to have many patents. The company also developed equipment and recording techniques such as the Laugh Track which are still in use today.
In 1947, he invested $50,000 in the Ampex company, which built North America's first commercial reel-to-reel tape recorder. He left NBC to work for ABC because NBC was not interested in recording at the time. This proved beneficial because ABC accepted him and his new ideas. Crosby then became the first performer to pre-record his radio shows and master his commercial recordings onto magnetic tape. He gave one of the first Ampex Model 200 recorders to his friend, musician Les Paul, which led directly to Paul's invention of multi-track recording. Along with Frank Sinatra, Crosby was one of the principal backers behind the famous United Western Recorders recording studio complex in Los Angeles.
When his recording of White Christmas hit the streets in weary, war-torn 1942, it became the biggest-selling single of all time and launched the Christmas music industry we know today (Christmas music, while hardly unknown, was not a major industry before this). In 1946, he revolutionized the entire broadcast industry by insisting on tape recording his radio programs for future broadcasting, the second most important development in 20th century entertainment after the advent of films with sound.
Bing Crosby and the 12-channel prototype "Bing Crosby video tape recorder"
The videotape machine represents perhaps, the most amazing combination of mechanical and electronic engineering that you will ever find in one device. Indeed, technology developed for the videotape machine also is fundamental to the now ubiquitous computer disk drive as well.
"The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences awarded Ampex its first Emmy in 1957 for this development. Ampex has received a total of 12 Emmys for its technical video achievements." [ source: Wikipedia, Ampex ]
"Ampex developed the "instant replay" videodisc recorder at the request of ABC in 1966 for the "Wide World of Sports" program. CBS had earlier experimented with a modified Ampex VR-1000B videotape machine for replays during the Army-Navy game Dec. 7, 1963, and had tried a "freeze action" videodisc in August 1965 developed by the MVR Corporation of Palo Alto. This MVR single-frame recorder had been demonstrated at the July 1965 SMPTE meeting in San Francisco, capable of recording 20 seconds of black-and-white video as 600 single frames on a shiny aluminum magnetic disc coated with nickel cobalt. MVR built the model VDR-210CF for CBS to use for football games, instantly playing back short action sequences in normal motion, or freezing the motion at a single frame.
Ampex used a new approach, spinning a metal disc at 1800 rpm with a series of recording heads moving across the platter making 30 video tracks per second to record 30 seconds of normal motion. Each track held one video frame. If the heads were slowed down, less than 30 tracks were played back at 1800 rpm, creating the slow motion effect. If the heads were stopped as the platter continued to spin at 1800 rpm, a freeze frame was created. John Poole at Ampex was the project manager, having developed the metal disc for the Videofile Information System at Ampex that would be commercially introduced in 1968. This system retrieved document images stored on videotape and duplicated them on disc recorder workstations so office personnel could view the documents in "instant replay" stop-action format. In March, 1967, the Ampex HS-100 color video magnetic disc recorder was used for rapid playback in normal, slow, or stop action, for the "World Series of Skiing" program from the U.S. Ski Championships in Vail, Colorado, marking the beginning of instant replay on commercial television." [ source: Ampex history ]
Ampex made me who I am today... a debt-free man. Thank You! I will never stop thanking the Ampex cadre for employing me. They made a good broadcast engineer out of me. Here's a photo of me - Eng in Charge at WVNY-TV, Burlington, VT - June, 2000 in the production control room. During my thirty-plus-year career in electronics and broadcasting, I've worked for: a) the company that invented the video tape recorder - Ampex Corporation; b) the company that produced and demonstrated the first digital central office telephone switching system - TRW / Vidar; c) the company that designed, built, and installed the first computer animation systems - Computer Image; and, d) the company that had their facility located at Edwin Armstrong's historic site - USA Network. Edwin Armstrong is the father of FM radio.
I've lived and worked all around the U.S.A. Most of the time I was in Colorado. I've worked as a video engineer at many video facilities in the Rocky Mountain region, mostly in the Denver area. Other cowboy places I worked are Albuquerque for two years, Cheyenne for three years, and Austin for one year. These are just a few of the many places I've worked and lived. Most of the time my new employer would pay for all my moving expenses.
The "most insane gig" I had was a job that required me to stay awake all night long. Nothing is more insane than that! I worked for thirty months straight on graveyard shift. This was 2001 to 2003. I was a technical maintenance engineer working in the Denver Tech Center. They paid for all my moving expenses. I did this insane gig because it was a high-paying job. I barely slept more than a few hours a day. I sacrificed my lifestyle, but I saved my salary for my retirement. This was a very demanding job working at a state-of-the-art, all-digital, cable TV origination facility. The Network Operations Center was originating 16 TV channels for the Hallmark Channel. Their transmission room distributed these programs to cable TV operators around the world. The facility was equipped and wired for 32 channels of digital video signal flow. It had Encoda DAL automation systems running on 8 LANs operating in four control rooms with 8 channels each. This was their Broadcast Operations Center. The room next to that was a Production Operations Center. The entire facility had 150 equipment racks of gear. There are several facilities located in the Denver Tech Center (DTC) like the one where I worked. The Starz Encore Group's facility is in the DTC. Starz is originating more than 50 premium cable TV channels. Direct TV's first broadcasting center is located in Castle Rock, a few miles south of the DTC. Read managing complexity and costs at DIRECTV. EchoStar and Dish Network's first worldwide satellite digital broadcasting center was located in Cheyenne, Wyoming in 1996. Denver is about 100 miles south of Cheyenne.
One of the "crazier gigs" I had was working for Time Warner Cable in Austin from 1999 - 2000. I flew into Austin for an interview with their new chief engineer. I told him, "There must be lots of engineers applying to you for this position. Why do you want to hire me? This place is a cutting-edge facility worth millions of dollars. It's not even finished being built yet. I've been working at a TV station in Cheyenne for the past three years." Dan said to me, "You used to work for Ampex." I've heard that speech many times before! I moved to Austin. Time Warner paid for all my moving expenses. I was the engineer in charge of their brand new, state-of-the-art, cable TV news channel. Time Warner merged with AOL about one month after I started. At the time, that was the biggest corporate merger ever! Both CEOs flew into Austin to do some public relations promotions about this. They came to our new facility and showcased it in the mainstream media. Time Warner's corporate engineers insisted we use new, exotic, state-of-the-art equipment. This was nothing new for them. "NY1 News is Time Warner Cable's 24-hour newschannel in New York City. In all, NY1 News serves 2.1 million cable subscribers. NY1 was launched on September 8, 1992." [ source: New York 1, Time Warner Cable ] It was risky sometimes, using bleeding-edge, "brand new" technology. The problem was, we were having interfacing problems with a major piece of "brand new" equipment made in Europe. It was a very big deal! This European vendor had several German software engineers in our facility. They kept on writing new software codes and re-programming that exotic system of theirs, but they couldn't get it to work right. We had to switch this equipment out. The new, "less-exotic" system we cludged together was engineered much better, with proven technology, but it delayed our facility's inauguration. It was a lot of extra work for Dan and I, but actually, both of us wanted this gig because we wanted to advance our careers. Time Warner in Austin was "the cutting-edge" both of us were seeking. Our news channel's operational launch was a month late due to engineering problems. The facility was too avante-garde. This was a blow to our pride. Me and the chief engineer were embarrassed. That's all I can say. Several months after the news channel began operations, the news director quit. We were stunned. The chief engineer I worked for was a brilliant man. He quit after six months. I left several months after that. The operations manager left a few months after I did. Then the dot-com bubble burst. The NASDAQ stock index crashed by 2001.
Another way to originate and deliver program content is by using "MMDS" cable TV. This is a terrestrial system. It operates by microwave transmission. No wiring infrastructure necessary! The microwave operates at 2.5 gHz. I worked one year overseas in the Persian Gulf during 1994. They paid for all my moving expenses. It was totally insane! My situation resembled Marco Polo's travels, and that's the way I felt. I was doing video engineering work for a 28-channel MMDS "wireless" cable TV system.
Electronics is on "fast, faster, super-fast, fast-track"! The reason I got on this bus-jet-rocketship is because I was taping Grateful Dead shows. Their Alembic sound equipment blew my mind! Many of the Grateful Dead's older soundboard recordings were taped on Ampex magnetic tape using Ampex audio tape recorders. A year-and-a-half before his passing, I spoke to Owsley "Bear" Stanley about this. We talked about Ampex, Ron Wickersham, Susan Wickersham, Rick Turner, and the formation of Alembic Sound. David Gans recorded a 6-hour interview he had with Bear in 1991. Shortly after Bear died, Gans played a two-hour program from it. This excerpt was broadcast by David Gans on KPFA radio on March 30, 2011 during his Dead To The World program. [ source: Bear's taped interview with David Gans, and his e-mail chat with me ]
Ampex engineers have always had a proud tradition. It's called "Job (trade) Security"! Please pass my gratitude along to the Ampex crew. Thanks to Ampex for giving me a chance or two. And thanks for putting up with my shit. In return for that, I put in a lot of long days, and I didn't mind being in the lower echelon. I was working alongside Ampex's best field engineers and support engineers. Thanks to job-security from Ampex, I have been living a righteous lifestyle in Colorado, U.S.A. for most of my life.
Cover art image by Jim Evans for The Cowboys album
I'm a GD-Cowboy-Hippie-Freak, and I'm a retired taper. Old tapers never die, we just slowly "not fade away." Thanks to Ampex, and thanks to the Grateful Dead, I can say this stuff is true!
My dad was in the ROTC chapter at Harvard. It's one of the first ROTC units in the country. He took photographs during World War II for the U.S. Army Air Corps while he was flying airplanes over northern Africa. It behooves us to know that on May 4, 1970, Ohio National Guard troops opened fire on peaceful student protesters at Kent State University. They were protesting the Vietnam war and the Selective Service's drafting of our young men. The Ohio guardsmen shot and killed four students, two of whom were not protesters. One of the students killed was William Knox Schroeder. William Schroeder had been walking from one class to the next when he was gunned down. Schroeder was also a member of the campus ROTC chapter. Lately I've been wondering, what the hell did my dad think about that? R.I.P.
My mom was a telephone switchboard operator in Boulder, Colorado. My dad graduated from Harvard. I have no idea how they met! My mom stayed at home while I was growing up, and my dad worked and payed all the bills. I started out in life as a punk-kid from New Jersey during the Leave-It-To-Beaver era - see photo. Life was great! We were the middle class.
My parents yelled and argued way more than others did, but they never fought, and they never hit us. They didn't get divorced. Married parents who didn't get along in this era remained married "because of the kids." My dad taught me to ride bicycles and how to play baseball. He also gave me some driving lessons on his lap, behind the wheel in his car, when I just a little kid. Life was normal for me. My parents took good care of everything for me and my two brothers. I went to Sunday School with my brothers for one or two years, and I was in the Boy Scouts for awhile. My first "paid-gigs" were two newspaper routes I had when I was seven or eight years old. Also, my mom had a bunch of neighbors who paid me to clean windows and shovel snow for them. I worked at the garden apartments complex where I lived while I was in junior high school. I did everything: picking up trash; landscaping; snow removal; roofing; apartment cleaning and painting; and maintenance, which was fixing broken windows, repairing leaky toilets and sinks, snaking out clogged pipes and drains, repairing electrical switches and fixtures, and maintaining their boiler rooms. I worked many hours at Bowla Bowla while I was in high school.
I played Little League baseball for five years. Looking back, that was the most fun I ever had! Too bad Richard Gertner was sexually molesting me at the time. After my Little League era ended, I began hanging out at Bowla Bowla. It's the bowling alley across the street from where I lived. I got real good at bowling in a couple of years time. I worked there for several years. I did every job except for manager, accounting, and bartender - thanks to Doug Flynn. I bowled on adult teams in adult leagues because I was a good bowler. Doug Flynn was the manager of Bowla Bowla. He smoked cigars, drove a navy blue '66 Mustang convertible, and his wife had multiple sclerosis. He did everything for her, and he never talked about it. He was the sweetest guy I ever met when I was a kid. He was like my second dad. If it wasn't for Doug Flynn, none of this would have happened. Thank You, Doug!
One group of adults I bowled with were very, very cool guys. I was hanging out with them and their friends while I was in high school. These guys were about twenty-five years old. All of them had very good jobs. Most of them liked drag racing and fast cars. A lot of them were military vets. All of them were very smart. I got into racing cars for a year or two. I bought my 1967 Oldsmobile 442 used from Ray Veloce. We bowled together on the same team. He worked for IBM. In 1969, Ray Veloce wrote a program(s) for our Bowling League. He created a database for all the league-play's records: names, dates, scores, team vs team, team line-ups, lane number's for each game being bowled, lane conditions, and the complete League schedule. He had a very good working model. Each time we bowled the next week's league-play, he brought new print-outs from IBM that predicted all of our scores!
Artie Holmes didn't bowl, but he hung out with our group at Bowla Bowla. His dad played the French horn and worked in a symphony. Both of them were car mechanic types, and both were very smart. Artie had a '66 Olds 442 that he raced. His 442 was very fast! It was a red convertible with a white top.
1966 Oldsmobile 442 in Fort Collins, CO on Feb 27, 2014
My '67 Olds 442 had a beautiful golden bronze paint job. At one point, I built a very fast Camaro race car with a friend. Artie Holmes was our mechanic and driver. I wasted a lot of money on race cars. A couple of years later, after I became a hippie and got into electronics, I bought a VW car-body (minus the engine) from Artie while I was visiting New Jersey. He was going to put a Porsche engine into it, but then he lost interest in racing cars. Artie was getting into ham radio and CB radio. I told him I had an FCC 1st class license. He asked me a lot of questions about antennas and radio transmitters. I gave him some advice, and then I showed him my first VW beetle. The motor was in excellent condition and my car ran great. The body was rusted out pretty bad on the bottom of the doors. The insides flooded every time I drove it down the highway during or after a rainstorm. Van Manakas and Eric Levine found this out when the three us drove it from Johnson City to Nashville a few months earlier. We had two inches of water inside the car! I had to pull over every thirty miles and drain the water out. Artie Holmes gave me a great deal on his VW. Thanks, man!
Mark Vukovich and Al Frens bowled with us. Mark was a college grad with recent military service. He and Al Frens bought two of the first Hurst Oldsmobiles ever made, in 1968. The Hurst/Olds was powered by a 390 horsepower, 455 cubic-inch Rocket V8. Jim Nagy was a very cool guy who bowled with us. He worked as a machinist for Curtiss-Wright and he drove a lightning-fast '67 Mustang GT fastback with a 390 cubic-inch V8. One day Nagy peeled-out in his Mustang and raced it down the street. Nagy tells the story: "I pulled a very hard "power-shift" from first-gear to second-gear. I shifted that Mustang really-damned hard. My seat buckled, and the seatback broke backwards. The steering wheel broke off in my hands! I tossed that damned steering wheel in my back seat. I drove my Mustang home by holding onto the jagged edges of the steering column. I had some cuts on my hands. My girlfriend had to drive me to the hospital in her car so I could get them stitched up. But, I never crashed my Mustang!" Nagy bought an AMX race car after that. Then he married his wife, Judy.
Chuck Davis didn't race cars. He bowled with us. He was five or six years older than me. We hung out together a lot. He worked as a computer operator for Prentice Hall, in Englewood Cliffs, NJ. He was really smart too. He was the funniest and coolest guy of the bunch. We used to clown around, chase girls and flirt with them, pull lots of pranks, and sometimes we bowled other guys for money. Chuck was the only guy in our "bunch" who was in our local National Guard unit. All the other guys had already served. "There was a major civil disturbance that occurred in the city of Newark, New Jersey between July 12 and July 17, 1967. It was six days of rioting, looting, and destruction that left 26 dead and hundreds injured." [ source: Wikipedia, Newark riots ] Chuck Davis's National Guard unit was called up, and they were sent into Newark. That's how one of my best friends was in the middle of the Newark riots! We also had some rioting and numerous fires in the slums of Englewood, NJ - very close by to where I lived. After that, Chuck Davis married his wife, Cindy.
Harry [last name?] didn't bowl, but he hung out with us. This guy was unique and very creative! He had recently finished his military service, and he started working as a technician for the phone company. He was very smart, he smoked a pipe, and he was very unassuming. He bought a 6-cylinder, 3-speed Chevy Nova convertible from an old lady. He pulled the engine out. He put an 8-cylinder, 327 cubic-inch Chevy motor into that thing. He beefed up the transmission and the suspension, but you couldn't see or notice that anything had ever been "done" to it. He put a pair of stock mufflers on it. It looked like an old lady's car! It was a sky blue body with a white top. He put chrome hubcaps on it as a ploy. He used to rev-up his engine at red traffic lights when he saw guys next to him who were driving Corvettes, Chevelles, GTOs, 442s, Chargers, Mustangs, or other race cars. Most of the time these drivers would peel-out in front of Harry when the light turned green, and they'd race down the road going full-speed, thinking that Harry was just another dork on the road who had to be dealt with. Harry would go racing past them before the quarter-mile mark! He blew them away badly, every time! Harry got a motorcycle and he rode it up to the Woodstock Music Festival in 1969. I didn't go to Woodstock, but a lot of my friends did. I went to the Watkins Glen Summer Jam in 1973. 600,000 people showed up to see the Grateful Dead, Allman Brothers, and The Band play for that weekend. Both of these huge festivals were held in upstate New York, two hundred miles apart.
Barry Wills sometimes hung out at Bowla Bowla. He and I grew up together. We hung out together a lot, on and off, until I became a Deadhead in late 1972. We were two of the smartest kids in class during elementary school. His older sister was named Lorraine. We lived in the same garden apartments complex. It's located about five miles away from the George Washington Bridge. We each lived in a prototypical, middle-class American family. I thought his parents were the "perfect version" of what mine should be like, and I envied their family. Mr. and Mrs. Wills got along great. They were very social, had a great sense of humor, and they always seemed to be laughing and enjoying themselves. Leonard started his own business. Hazel was college-educated, but she was a stay-at-home mom. They had a motor boat. Barry got a dog and he named it "Rebel." One night in 1967 or 1968, me and Barry Wills and some friends went into "the city." We made our way down to Greenwich Village. On a chance, we found The Electric Circus. We saw Jimi Hendrix playing there. Another time, we saw Muhammad Ali on the steps of a Museum in NYC, who was then-named Cassius Marcellus Clay, Jr., making an impromptu speech about his "draft" situation. "He was eventually arrested and found guilty on draft evasion charges and stripped of his boxing title. He did not fight again for nearly four years — losing a time of peak performance in an athlete's career." [ source: Wikipedia, Muhammad Ali ]
One night Barry Wills and I were smoking joints in the parking lot behind Bowla Bowla. Several police cars swooped in from three directions. They were about five minutes too late. We were "clean" by then. We had the windows down in my car. I was playing Led Zeppelin music real loud on my 8-track tape deck. The cops pulled us out of my car and worked us over pretty good. They frisked us, searched my car, threw my 8-track tapes on the ground, cursed at us for fifteen minutes, and then they left. We went to Barry's house and told his dad about how the cops just bullied us "for nothing." Mr. Wills looked at his wife and he said, "Hazel, would you excuse us please?" He kissed her. Then he said, "Come on boys, let's get in the car!" You should have seen the riot-act Leonard Wills gave those cops at the police station! The Bergenfield cops didn't bother us for months after that! A few months later, a carload of us left Bowla Bowla in Barry's Thunderbird one night. We were just cruising around and minding our own business. We entered an expensive neighborhood in Englewood Cliffs. Barry pulled over in a cul-de-sac. He said, "Let's smoke a joint. Monte, you drive." We got out of the car and we changed our seats. When we closed the car doors, the lights went "on" inside the house near where we parked. I guess they called the cops on us. We saw the police cars coming. I peeled-out of the cul-de-sac just as the cops were coming into it. Three cop cars started chasing us down Route 9W. I yelled out, "Ditch the weed!" After it was all tossed out, I pulled the car over. They hauled all of us downtown to the police station. We were interrogated for a couple of hours in separate rooms. Barry Wills and I talked our way out of it and they let us go! Barry and I drove up to Toronto, Canada a year later. We parked my Pinto (with NJ license plates) inside Rochdale's underground garage. When we drove it back outside a few days later, several RCMP "mounties" pulled us over before we got one block. We were "clean"! They let us go. About a year after that, some redneck cops with a vendetta had a roadblock setup nearby a highway exit I had just taken. I had a bunch of NJ Deadheads in my car. They pulled me over. It was virtually an illegal stop, illegal search, and illegal seizure operation that was run by a bunch of rogue HICK cops in upstate NY. Sure, we were GUILTY of "driving while Hippie!" Five of us hippies got busted together in my car for some bullshit mary-jane possession charges. My dad had to come and get me out of jail. While I waited for him, I kept wishing it was Mr. Wills coming for me.
The Adventures of Panama Red came out in 1973 - fourth album by NRPS
- Cover art: Lore and Chris -
Fourteen years ago, Amendment 20 was added to the Colorado Constitution, authorizing the medical use of marijuana. I received my "mmj red card" for medical marijuana in Colorado six years ago. Then Colorado passed Amendment 64: The Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012. This GIS map of Colorado pot shops is based on data from Jan. 10, 2014, but not every licensed store on the map is open. That’s because some stores are still working their way through local licensing processes. [ source: Trevor Hughes, The Coloradoan ] Fort Collins City Council approves retail pot sales on March 5, 2014!
Lorraine Wills got married to a guy in California about 1970. They lived in Laguna Beach and they were hippies. Barry went out there and stayed at his sister's place for awhile. He told me lots of stories about it. Soon afterwards, Lorraine's husband received his draft notice from the Selective Service. He refused to join the Army and be shipped off to war in Vietnam. He moved to Canada with Lorraine.
I was morphing into a hippie-freak at this time, by age nineteen. I was going to lots of concerts. I witnessed many rock bands playing gigs at venues like The Fillmore, Felt Forum, New York Academy of Music, Capitol Theatre, and many smaller clubs. I remember seeing concerts by Black Sabbath, Santana, Jethro Tull, Loggins & Messina, Alice Cooper, Yes, J. Geils Band, Edgar Winters, Motley Crew, The James Gang, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Mountain, Savoy Brown, and Mott The Hoople. A lot of these bands were playing their first time at these venues. Barry Wills went to a lot of these concerts with me.
Two "big name" concerts I went to in 1971 were: The Who playing at Saratoga Springs, NY on August 2; and Grand Funk Railroad playing at Shea Stadium, where fifty-five thousand seats sold out in 72 hours.
My generation's counterculture era was a very rebellious period. Fact is, I didn't know shit about any of it yet. I wasn't hanging out with the right people. One day Barry Wills told me about Rochdale College, in Toronto. His sister Lorraine had just moved in there with her "draft-dodging" husband. Barry and I drove up there and checked it out. It was a freak-show! Holy Shit!
Rochdale College was the place to be in Toronto during the late '60s and early '70s. It was located on Bloor Street nearby the famous intersection with Yonge Street. Rochdale was the home of hippies, utopians, acid heads, exotic dancers, bikers, flower children, American draft dodgers, and all types of lost souls. It had drug dealers of every size, shape, disposition, and level of intelligence and style.
Rochdale College was an 18-floor building housing an entire police-free countercultural community in the center of Toronto, Ontario. Rochdale was to Canada what Haight-Ashbury, People's Park, the Chelsea Hotel, and a dozen other counter-cultural enclaves were to the United States. According to the CBC Archives, by 1971 Rochdale had become known as "North America's largest drug distribution warehouse." Hash, pot, and LSD were in large supply.
People could graduate from Rochdale College in a variety of ways. Tuition for the B.A. granting course is $25.00. Course length is 24 hours, and the degree was awarded on answering of a skill testing question. Tuition for the M.A. granting course is $50.00. During this course, the length of which will be determined by the student, the student will be required to answer a skill testing question of his choice. For a Ph.D. the tuition is $100.00 and there will be no questions asked. I went to Rochdale numerous times from 1971 to 1973 and I stayed with Lorraine Wills and her husband.
"Festival Express is a 2003 documentary film about the 1970 train tour of the same name across Canada taken by some of North America's most popular rock bands, including The Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, The Band and Delaney & Bonnie & Friends." [ source: Wikipedia, Festival Express ]
According to WikiPedia, "The tour ultimately began in Toronto at the CNE Grandstand, which was plagued with about 2500 protestors who objected to what they viewed as exploitation by price-gouging promoters. The opposition was organized by the May 4th Movement (M4M), the left-rebel group that grew out of the May 4, 1970 Kent State shootings. They attempted to crash the gates and scale the barbed wire fence and clashed with police, resulting in several injuries. To help calm the crowd, Metro Police Inspector Walter Magahay tried to get the promoter, Ken Walker, to lower ticket prices, but he refused. Subsequently, Jerry Garcia, in conjunction with Magahay, was instrumental in calming the unruly crowd by arranging a spontaneous free "rehearsal" concert in nearby Coronation Park upon a flatbed truck, while the scheduled show continued at the stadium. Once the free concert, which began at about 7:00pm on June 27, was announced, most of the ticketless fans dispersed to Coronation Park, with an initial attendance of about 6,000, thereby resolving the protest."
Rollingstone Magazine published an article by David Dalton and Jonathan Cott on September 3, 1970: "The Million Dollar Bash", pp. 30–34. I'm told it says, "M4M (May 4th Movement) is a coalition group of students and street people formed to commemorate the Kent State murders, which inaugurated a confrontation with Toronto Police at the American Consulate on the issue, with 91 persons arrested. M4M (May 4th Movement) is a coalition group of students and street people formed to commemorate the Kent State murders, which inaugurated a confrontation with Toronto Police at the American Consulate on the issue, with 91 persons arrested. They've begun organizing and highlighting various exploitation issues: unemployment, authoritarian schools, police repression, American imperialism, English-Canadian business oppression, $20 bellbottoms, and cultural exploitation...
They spotted [the Festival Express promoters] from the windows of Rochdale College, where M4M is headquartered, and...swooped down, their message picked up and promulgated by the (not notoriously revolutionary) Toronto press: STOP THE RIP-OFF EXPRESS!" [ read this discussion ]
One day in the fall of 1972, I met a bunch of Deadheads from the Northvale, New Jersey area. Jimmy Watson was the biggest Deadhead in the bunch! That evening, three carloads of us drove to a small club in upstate New York. My car was the last in line. Some redneck hick-cops pulled me over at their bullshit roadblock. Five of us hippies got busted together in my car for some bullshit mary-jane possession charges. After we got out of jail, Jimmy Watson turned me on to his phenomenal Grateful Dead tape collection. I said, "I own an 8-track recording system and I make my own 8-track tapes. We should be playing your Dead tapes in our cars on our 8-track decks." I made tapes for everybody. Then we decided it would be a cool thing if I bought a new taping system for recording Grateful Dead shows. Jay Delia and his brother worked at their dad's sign shop in Hackensack, NJ. Jay said to me, "I designed these Grateful Dead bumper stickers. Put these on your car."
Jay Delia's reflective, mirror-image, "TRUCK IT" bumper stickers
[ my Pinto was destroyed by a drunk driver who nearly killed me on Aug 10, 1973 ]
My life changed dramatically when I taped the Grateful Dead at RFK Stadium in 1973. It was Grateful Dead and Allman Brothers Band at RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C. The crowds were estimated at 100,000. On Saturday, the Dead played first. It was very hot, sunny, and over 100° F (39° C). At first, several of my friends and I were sitting high up in the stands. We weren't at all close to the soundboard. Tapers usually want to record from the soundboard's location, a.k.a. "front-of-board" (fob). We were far away, located about 2 o'clock high. I was tripping on a double-dose of very good LSD that I had dropped two hours earlier. We were smoking bowls of Nepalese hash and taking in the scenery. My probation officer never knew the fact that I traveled out of state illegally to get here, without asking for his permission first.
The infield was pack-jammed with a huge crowd of thousands and thousands of people, like ants. I started having second thoughts about taping. I was wondering if I could handle going into that infield crowd. I was just sitting there peacefully - with my state-of-the-art portable cassette taping system. It was pathetic and ridiculous! The Dead began taking the stage. The show was getting ready to start. Jay Delia picked up on my anxiety. He sensed the urgency of that moment. Jay smiled and guided me up from my seat. He led the way down the steps. By the time we reached the infield, the Dead had started their show. Bobby was singing Promised Land.
Jay looked back at me. I pressed the record / play switches to start my tape deck. I made sure tape was rolling, and I had good audio signals metering on the VU displays. Then I raised my arm up high and pointed my mic at the stage. Jay parted the crowd in front of me. While I was taping, I followed right behind him as he pierced through the crowd. We went all the way to the FOB / dfc bull's eye. Keith was just finishing up his piano solo in the second break of Promised Land. No one in the crowd ever complained to me. What we were hearing, was by far, the most incredible and amazing sound I ever heard. Then Jer sings Deal. This was my first time taping shows. I'm standing in front of the two yellow umbrellas in the photo below.
Grateful Dead's prototype Wall of Sound on June 9, 1973 at RFK Stadium in Washington, DC
- stereo PA System with JBL speakers inside Alembic cabinets, and two Auxiliary PA towers -
Everything changed after that. A few months later I was in electronics school. I went to Radio Electronics Television School (RETS), in Nutley, NJ. Jacob Miller was my instructor. He was incredible! I quit after one year when I accepted a technician job at Columbia University. I worked in the language lab. They had a popular English Language Program at Columbia. Students from all around the world took courses in English there. Columbia's language lab had zillions of tape decks I needed to maintain. Columbia's employees received free tuition. I wanted to get an engineering degree. How many years would that take? Whatever! I'm an idiot! I quit after two or three semesters. My employee ID at Columbia University was 36138. I immediately moved down to Johnson City, Tennessee to hang out with my friend. He played fiddle in the Country Comfort bluegrass band. I told him I would be their soundman.
I met the Country Comfort band during a hippie camping trip that my friend and I took in 1974. Eric Levine is a violinist from Teaneck, NJ. We drove in Eric's VW camper. This was during the Arab oil embargo. There were long lines for gasoline everywhere. We took a couple of jerry cans with us and filled them up. That gave us ten more gallons of gasoline. We drove into the mountains and went backpacking for five or six days. Then we hit a Bluegrass music festival in Chilhowie, Virginia. Country Comfort was performing there. Eric jammed with them in the campgrounds area. After two or three tunes, the band - all four of them - offered him a job on the spot as their fiddle player. They explained to us how they lost the previous two fiddle players from their band. It was dubious circumstances in both cases, but Country Comfort had just put out their first album. They were the most popular bluegrass band in northeast Tennessee at the time. They had many decent-paying gigs. About a month or two later, Eric Levine joined Country Comfort, and he moved to Johnson City, Tenn.
I moved to Johnson City in early 1975. It might have been March. Eric and Country Comfort's bass player, John Guthrie, shared an apartment together. The band's three other musicians were married and had families and homes. A third guy lived with Eric and John. He was a student going to University of Tennessee. I was there a month or two earlier when I took a vacation. I crashed in that pad for a week. Seven people were staying there. There were three girls from Florida crashing there that week. The girls met them at a bluegrass gig Country Comfort played in Florida. When I moved into this apartment as the fourth roommate, the landlady said, "Only three people are allowed to live in this apartment." I didn't find this out until I moved down there! Then I was told I needed to move out right away. So I had nowhere to live from the get-go. The student roommate told me he would be moving out soon, in about two months.
Wiley Cox was Country Comfort's mandolin player and lead singer. He had a very cool head shop business. His store was located in downtown Kingsport, Tenn. I was hanging out there a lot. You know, I needed to figure out where to live. Wiley told me he had an FCC 1st Class broadcasting license. He said he used to work in a TV station. He was operating video tape recorders. Wiley said, "I got that job because I had my FCC ticket." He said he got his FCC license by taking a crash-course in electronics at Elkins Institute in Nashville, Tenn. He told me the story.
Then I told Wiley about how I started taping the Grateful Dead, and after that, I had taped a bunch of bluegrass shows. I told him my one-year-old story about me taping John Hartford playing at the New York Academy of Music. Norman Blake, Tut Taylor, Sam Bush, Vassar Clements, David Bromberg, and David Holland played together with John Hartford on April 7, 1974. Eric Levine was with me.
I had developed a stealthy taping kit that was pretty reliable for making it past the security details at concerts. It was a cheap Kay guitar with the back removed from it. The guitar body fit perfectly over my tape deck. I carried this high quality taping kit around in a professional guitar case. I successfully snuck into dozens of clubs and venues with this rig. I would insist that I was a musician, and I couldn't leave my axe outside in my car. It worked every time! I was too lazy to install a counter-weight in the guitar case to offset the weight of my tape deck. The security detail at Carnegie Hall busted me one night in 1974. They noticed the unnatural slant of my guitar case when I entered. Thirty minutes later, they busted me red-handed taping the concert secretly. My tape was confiscated, and I was escorted out the front door with my equipment. This is the only time I was caught taping - unless you count the time when a Hell's Angels security dude confiscated my Grateful Dead tape in 1973 while I was taping them at Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City.
Wiley said, "Monte, you know a lot about tape recorders. I'm serious, man. You should go to Elkins in Nashville and get your FCC ticket. You'd do good by that." So I said, "Alright man, why not? I'll head out to Nashville. I'll go to Elkins. I'll get my FCC license. I'll be back in a month or two. Then I'll be your soundman." While I was going to Elkins and living in Nashville, I taped Vassar Clements and his Hillbilly Jazz band playing two shows at the Exit / In. This was a weekend in April 1975. In June, I drove to Atlanta to get my FCC license. I passed the FCC's exams for 3rd class license, 2nd class license, and 1st class license.
I went back to Johnson City with my new FCC 1st class license. I moved into the band's apartment. That's how I became the soundman for Country Comfort. Read my "God done made me funky" story about rednecks, gunfights, the Country Comfort band and their fiddle players. My Taper's Compendium is a good read for students, teachers, music lovers, taping enthusiasts, and bluegrass music historians. I was a soundman for two years. I worked and toured with three bluegrass bands. My circumstances changed by 1977. I was inspired to go back to school. I lacked expertise in digital electronics. That's why I needed to get my degree in electronics.
Students who earned electronics degrees were getting good jobs. Job Recruiters were actively visiting these campuses. Companies across the country needed more electronics technicians. Students were being offered numerous job opportunities before they graduated. I remember having five or six recruiters meeting with me over a one-year period. I was offered jobs by all of them while I was still in school. Virtually all recruiters offered reimbursements for our moving expenses. This was usually enough to cover one hundred percent of our relocation costs. Most graduates started out by working in factories as test technicians. Many factories across the U.S.A. had these opportunities, especially the big ones in Silicon Valley. This is the experience I was seeking, and that's exactly what happened.
The first factory I worked in was located in San Luis Obispo, in the California central-coast region. It's a very beautiful area. I moved there from Portland, OR. Vidar hired me while I was attending school at UEI. They did a recruitment drive at my electronics school. I worked for TRW / Vidar for one year.
I started working for Vidar when they began manufacturing the first digital telephone switching systems. TRW had just made a big move and purchased Vidar because of that. Previously, Vidar had been manufacturing electronics equipment for the telephony industry. They made office switching equipment and line spanning equipment for many years.
"Vidar produced and demonstrated the first digital central office switch. Northern Telecom beat Vidar to the market with the first installation of a commercial production digital switch (their DMS-10 in 1977). Vidar still was the first to demonstrate the technology. Vidar's ITS-5 switching system was developed in March 1976 as a Class 5 (local end office) switch. It was later supplemented with Class 4 functions and was named the ITS-4/5 switch. The first commercial production installations took place in 1978." [ source: Telephone World ]
TRW / Vidar's sales of switching systems were taking off fast. That's why I cherry-picked this factory to work in when I graduated electronics school in Portland, Oregon. This was June 1978. In fact, I drove down there first and I made a visit in person. This was after I had their job offer. I inspected their factory. I accepted their job offer. I walked out the door. Then I drove down to the L.A. area to visit my old musician pal Vince Gill. He was living in the Hermosa Beach area. We were roommates in Louisville, Kentucky two years earlier. I was his soundman in 1975 and 1976 with the bands Bluegrass Alliance, and Lazy River. This era was the pinnacle of my hippie-cowboy, soundman career. I also worked a full time job as a video tape operator for a TV station in Louisville from January to September in 1976.
Lonnie Peerce was the Bluegrass Alliance band's leader. He owned the legal rights to use the name Bluegrass Alliance. In 1971, the band members of the Bluegrass Alliance were feuding with Lonnie. When they "fired Lonnie", they had to start a new band of their own, and they had to use a new name. That's how the Newgrass Revival band started, and I taped them in 1975.
In the springtime of 1976, I asked the managers at my TV station, "Can I make a show with the Bluegrass Alliance band? Can I record it on video tape? Will you put it on the air?" They said yes, yes, and yes. WDRB-TV's Steve Doss, Mike Harpring, and myself shared the "producer" credit. We taped the show with Vince Gill and the Bluegrass Alliance on two Sunday nights in a row. We used a Peavey audio board and some mics that were borrowed from Mike Harpring's friend who owned Far-Out Music, in New Albany, Indiana. We only had one camera in our studio. We decided to tape the show twice and make it appear that we had two cameras. On the first pass, we shot the close-ups and recorded the audio. On the second pass, we set the camera up on a wide shot. We played the tape back and faded between tape and our live camera. We mixed the video on our new Grass Valley production switcher. WAKY disc jockey Tom Dooley was the host of our show. He had really long, full, curly hair and a beard. The second week he showed up with short hair. Then we had to redo the show's intro package, and some of the "ins and outs," all over again. We didn't set up the questions for the interview ahead of time, so every time Dooley asked one of the players a question about the band, they referred him to Lonnie. The songs were recorded on individual 2-inch quad tapes. I edited them into one long piece. I recall this show being sixty minutes long.
Bluegrass music historians should note that Sam Bush and Tony Rice both played with Lonnie Peerce in the Bluegrass Alliance band in 1971. Famous-name players from the Bluegrass Alliance band also played in J D Crowe's bluegrass band during the early 1970s. The photo below from Dec 2008 shows some of them posing in front of Harry Bickel's place. This is where Vince Gill and I were roommates in Louisville, Kentucky. At times, Bickel's house had too many musicians living there. Some of us rotated in and out of there. Vince and I moved out one time, and we rented an apartment nearby. The Bluegrass Alliance's Kentucky Blue LP was released on the American Heritage record label in 1976. The band recorded these tracks in a recording studio in Nashville. The Louise track has Buddy Emmons playing pedal steel. Before going, demo taping sessions were rehearsed in my apartment, and I recorded a bunch of practice tapes for them.
L - R: Tony Rice, Curtis Burch, Dan Crary, J D Crowe, John Cowan, Sam Bush
[ photo credit: WFPL archives ]
This photo shows our Bluegrass Alliance alumni get-together on Dec 18, 2008. Lonnie played fiddle, sang tenor, and was the frontman. Lonnie was also the band's manager, and he gets credit for booking the gigs. In the summer of 1976 the band members found out he was shorting them on their pay. Tensions were building up for weeks. The vibes were crazy when we played at The Cowboy Bar the last two weeks in July.
There was a meltdown one night in Wyoming. I wound up in the middle of it since I was their soundman. I had taken two weeks vacation time from my TV station gig. A bunch of us drove to Wyoming in Vince's van. John, Bob, and their wives drove with us in their vehicle. Lonnie went separately with his girlfriend. They drove there in Lonnie's RV. Then we set about with mischief and torment. We went crazy one night at their gig! The band started playing some new songs that Lonnie had never heard before. What the hell were they doing? Holy shit! I patched Lonnie's fiddle into our phase shifter effects box. I cranked up his effects. That fiddle sounded pretty wild! What in the hell was I thinking? I'm an idiot! Then Vince Gill yanked the coveted em-cee spot away from Lonnie. I mixed Lonnie's microphone level all the way down in between songs. There was no way the audience could hear what Lonnie was saying. I carefully mixed Vince's mic levels up so he could steal the frontman duty away from Lonnie. Vince was very entertaining that night, and the audience really enjoyed it. It was very memorable!
Vince Gill and the Bluegrass Alliance band • Million Dollar Cowboy Bar • Jackson Hole, Wyoming
- July 1976 photo depicts my modified Bose 901 white speaker cabinets (rewired to match Bose 800) -
[ photo credit: "the wives" Diane Jump and Laura Briedenbach ]
We played those Cowboy Bar gigs for two weeks; six nights the first week, and five nights the second week. The Cowboy Bar had Waylon Jennings booked to play instead, for our last night, Saturday, July 31. This was after the booking Lonnie made months earlier. We didn't find out about Waylon until we arrived there. When we met the bar manager, he said, "I have some good news and some bad news. The bad news is, you won't be playing the gig on your last night here. Waylong Jennings is playing that night instead of Bluegrass Alliance. The good news is, you're all getting paid-in-full, and everybody gets free admission to Waylon's show. [ I have some good stories about this. ]
The next day, Sunday, Aug 1, 1976, the band left Jackson Hole and drove to Denver to play some gigs. I left Jackson Hole by myself that day on a flight headed back to Louisville, with a Denver connection. I wound up flying over Denver in a Boeing 727 the day after the Thompson Canyon Flood hit there in 1976. It was a disaster on the ground. No more planes were being allowed to land in Denver. Refueling the aircraft landing in Denver was not happening. After circling over Denver for an hour or two, we were low on fuel. We diverted to Cheyenne. I was stuck there for 15 hours with no money.
"On July 31, 1976, the Big Thompson Canyon was the site of a devastating flash flood that swept down the steep and narrow canyon, claiming the lives of 143 people, 5 of whom were never found. This flood was triggered by a nearly stationary thunderstorm near the upper section of the canyon that dumped 300 millimeters (12 inches) of rain in less than 4 hours (more than 3/4 of the average annual rainfall for the area). Little rain fell over the lower section of the canyon, where many of the victims were.
Around 9 p.m., a wall of water more than 6 meters (20 ft) high raced down the canyon at about 6 m/s (14 mph), destroying 400 cars, 418 houses and 52 businesses and washing out most of U.S. Route 34. This flood was more than 4 times as strong as any in the 112-year record available in 1976, with a discharge of 1,000 cubic meters per second (35,000 ft³/s)." [ source: Wikipedia, Big Thompson River ]
Lonnie Peerce got back at the band for what happened in Jackson Hole. He was the one who signed the contract at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. They paid him directly. The rest of the band had to wait to be paid. They forked out a lot of traveling expenses for this gig. They eventually got paid, but not without a huge scene in Lonnie's front yard back in Louisville. There was a fight over the band's final pay. The scene ended when Lonnie chased Vince Gill down the street with a mic stand! Everyone in the band quit. The band ended up switching some sound equipment out. [ source: Bill Millet ]
The guys formed their own band and named it Lazy River. They asked me to quit my job and become "their full-time soundman" for this band. I gave my my two weeks notice to the chief engineer at the TV station. "Thanks for your service. Good luck," Bob Cleveland said. This guy was the most unassuming television engineer I ever met. We called him 'Captain Bob'. I owe Bob Cleveland and WDRB-TV a huge debt of gratitude for employing me to work at my first TV station! Thank You very much! While I was working at WDRB, Bob hired a video technician named Charles Callaway (or Callahan?). This guy was a brilliant video technician. He could repair any equipment in our TV station. He also designed some very cool electronics circuits for us. He was married to a gal from Louisville. They had just moved to Louisville from Colorado. Charlie had been working at Ampex's factory in Colorado Springs. While he was working there, he designed and built his own Pong Video Game!
The band and I did not have a budget for purchasing sound system equipment. I owned some studio quality ElectroVoice mics and a pair of Bose PA speakers. I designed and built some custom-made wiring assemblies, a snake harness, and several stage boxes. This connected all the band's equipment, instruments, and vocals into the PA system and monitors. Then I invested my life savings. I purchased a 14-channel Tapco soundboard mixing system, and I bought some audio amplifiers for the PA.
Just before my last day at work, I escorted the Lazy River band into my TV station. We were bored. It was in the evening. Things were quiet. Only one guy was there, and he was the master control operator. Vince Gill, John Jump, Bob Briedenbach, Bill Millet, and Robert Pool were with me. I started showing off our Grass Valley video production switcher to them. I explained how video wipes worked. I showed them our wipe-pattern generator and I did a few different wipes between video sources. Then I showed them how to do video mixes. I did a few dissolves between video sources. Then I said, "Let me show you how to do wipes and dissolves at the same time. We can do a lot stuff with this thing." I turned on the lighting grid and fired up the camera in the studio. Robert Pool posed for our camera. I framed his "head-shot." I looked at our program feed that was going out on the air. It was a syndicated religious program. It was playing back from video tape. The show had been recorded using three cameras. Most of the video was a "camera-one" head-shot of the program's host. The host was an African-American man with a "medium" Afro hairdo. Robert Pool was a white guy with a "bigger" Afro hairdo, and he had a big Fu Manchu moustache. I said, "Let's put Robert's head on that guy's body." I zoomed our camera-shot of Robert's head until it was the same size as the "camera-one" shot of the African-American man. I selected a circular wipe on the production switcher's pattern-generator. I wiped half-way between the two sources. Source A was Robert's head-shot; Source B was the program's video tape shot of the host-guy. I turned on the X-Y positioner. Its joystick moves the wipe pattern's origin away from its 'center-point'. I repositioned the wipe pattern's circle until it hovered over the African-American man's head. Then I rezoomed and refocused our head-shot of Robert. I panned the camera until Robert's head appeared in the switcher's "wipe-pattern hole." The African-American guy's head was replaced by Robert's head! I moved the switcher's fader bar back and forth until I got the "wipe percentage" for each source "just right." We were laughing our asses off. I adjusted the edge-softener on the pattern generator. This made the edge of the "circular border" appear fuzzy and translucent. Robert's head was superimposing "seamlessly" onto this other guy's body. I zoomed our camera in a tiny bit more so Robert's head was "large." The effect was very bizarre. Robert started making 'demonic-looking' facial gestures when he saw the "effects of himself" on the studio's video monitor. It was hysterical! Someone asked me if this was going out on the air. "No way," I told them. "This is the production area. Over here is the master control area, next to our video tape recorders. You'd have to use the master-control switcher to do that." I put it on the air for two seconds. We were rolling on the floor, laughing uncontrollably. What in the hell was I doing. What was I thinking? Immediately, several viewers called into the station and said they saw something that looked like a "demonic being, or a vision of a demonic head." We had thunderstorms in the area that evening. The next day, the TV station manager asked me what happened. I told him our transmitter was hit by lightning and we had "some glitches" on the air. He said, "You're Fired!" I apologize, I'm sorry if I may have offended anyone. It was a harmless, stupid prank. There's no excuse for what I did. I wasn't thinking clearly. I'm an idiot!
Lazy River played a lot of bluegrass, newgrass, and western swing. Their arrangements on Bob Wills and Hank Williams songs were really great! My favorite pure cowboy song was played by Lazy River. It's an original song that's actually titled, "Cowboy Song". If Willie Nelson had put this out, I believe it would have sky-rocketed to the top of the charts. This particular Cowboy Song was performed by Lazy River in 1976. Vince Gill is playing fiddle. Lazy River's arrangement is beautiful. There are five musicians, no drums. Had they done an arrangement for recording this Cowboy Song in a professional studio, they could have added some more instruments and some drums. It's a beautiful song. Cowboys and music lovers should give this a listen. I love the lyrics. Listen to Cowboy Song, mp3 track, 4:47 long. It was written and sung by my friend, John Jump.
The "craziest gig" Lazy River played was at a festival outside of Birmingham, Alabama. We were scheduled to play one set, about thirty or forty-five minutes long. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon in the summer. A sound crew was already there. Their PA system sounded pretty good. l told them I wanted to do the soundboard mixing when Lazy River played. Then I walked around the festival site with Bill Millet. We saw two girls and one guy smoking a bowl of "stuff." We thought it was regular weed. They offered the pipe to us and said, "This is some pretty good stuff. Smoke some. You'll play better if you do." Not True!! We were Angel-Dusted! I had never, ever seen Bill Millet miss one note when he played his banjo on stage. He was very professional. He practiced all the time, and he was very good at arranging songs for the band. But, on this day, it didn't appear to me that Bill Millet was really playing his banjo. He was on stage with it; he had it in his possession; his arms, hands, and fingers were moving around on it. It looked to me like he was fumbling around with it. He made a bunch of mistakes!
By early 1977 my soundman career was over. This was the best time to get my degree in electronics. In May, I contacted United Electronics Institute (UEI) in Portland, Oregon. I told them I needed to attend classes for my second year of electronics school. They told me they had an electronics program that worked for me. I found out they had students ready to begin their second academic year in September. UEI told me I could "join the NA-145 Class in progress." I said, "Okay, great! I'll see you then." I went up to Boston and I hung out with John Zias and Eric Levine for awhile. Zias was taking classes at Berklee College of Music. I decided to go hiking and camping in New England for a month. I backpacked through most of the Appalachian Trail in Maine and New Hampshire - see photo. It was several hundred miles. This was in the summer of 1977. I moved to Portland in September. I joined the NA-145 Class at UEI. Our classes were in the afternoons, Monday - Friday. Peter (Sabin?) was my instructor. I worked a part-time job at a TV station for PBS. I was doing TV transmitter duty on the weekends, every Saturday and Sunday, starting at sign-on, from 4:30 in the morning until 3:00 in the afternoon. I worked in their TV studio on a couple of weeknights. I completed my electronics curriculum. I graduated on June 30,1978 with a degree in Digital Electronics.
I moved to San Luis Obispo in July 1978 to work for TRW / Vidar. They paid for all my moving expenses. This was a "country-club-like" factory. That's another reason I wanted to work there. They had dozens of young girls working there who were beautiful looking. When I started working there, the girls were just as excited as I was. That's because Vidar had just hired a bunch of new young guys from outside of town. We were the new technicians. Our job was testing and troubleshooting electronics equipment for Vidar's new microprocessor-based digital switching systems. Most people would consider our Vidar jobs to be a dream-come-true, especially for a punk-kid from NJ like me. However, one year later, the Vidar gig was slowing down hugely. I saw the "writing on the wall".
San Luis Obispo was the most beautiful town I ever had to move away from! Years later I've had people yelling at me, and calling me crazy for leaving that very beautiful area. I have a photo showing Vidar technicians Dave Lukedemeyer and myself sunbathing at Pirate's Cove in April 1979. We played on the same softball team in a winter league. Some of our games were played in Morro Bay. Bill Grub (or Grubb) and Dave Lukedemeyer (sp?) are two Vidar technicians I made friends with. They were from Kansas City. Vidar hired a bunch of new technicians from Kansas City. Me and the KC Vidar boys used to hang out with all the Vidar girls we could handle.
Bill Grub stopped by my place in Manitou Springs one year later. This was after I quit my job at Vidar, and while I was working for Ampex. He was on his way home to Kansas City. Why? He had just been laid off from Vidar! This was 1980 or 1981.
Vidar was not very successful in the digital switch market and ceased manufacture of their switches in the 1980s. Most of their switches have been long ago removed from service in the public switched telephone network. Iowa Telecom is one of the last known users of Vidar switches, who inherited them when they purchased service area from (then) GTE in 2000.
Overview and Background on Electronic and Digital Switching Systems
- Vidar telephone switching system in Rembrandt, Iowa -
[ photo credit: Telephone World web site and Terry Burke from Iowa Telecom ]
Information and pictures for TRW-Vidar's digital central office switching systems
I quit my job at Vidar after Ampex offered me a job to work in their factory in Colorado Springs. Thanks to my old pal, Lazy River musician Eric Weber, and his wife Karen. They let me crash at their home in Denver while I was taking a week's vacation time from my gig at Vidar. I was going job-searching up and down Colorado's front range region looking for my new gig. I immediately went to Boulder and was there all day Monday. My impression was you needed to have a degree in engineering if you wanted to work as a technician in Boulder. I scoured the Denver area for the next three days. I hit many of the electronics giants who had factories there. Late Thursday afternoon, at the last place I applied, I was told they weren't hiring. I said, "I have one more day tomorrow. Any suggestions?" They said, "Try Colorado Springs. Hewlett Packard has a big plant near Garden of The Gods. Digital Equipment Corporation has a factory. They make computers. Ampex is there too." I drove down to Colorado Springs on Friday. I didn't get out to Ampex until late in the afternoon. This was the last day of my vacation. Ampex hired me! That's another story, for another time.
When I went to work in Colorado Springs, I had my FCC 1st Class broadcasting license. I had worked in two TV stations previously (WDRB-TV in Louisville, KY and KOAP-TV/FM in Portland, OR). I had some Quad video tape deck experience as a tape operator. I had some TV transmitter experience.
Ampex hired me in 1979 to work as a technician in their AVSD factory in Colorado Springs. Stan Fought was the Plant Manager. This was the audio-video systems division. Ampex paid for all my moving expenses. They placed me on the circuit board line test for VPR-2 one-inch helical video tape recorders. I worked on the second shift. There were many newly hired tech's at that moment on my shift, about twenty of us. Most of the old-timers at Ampex wanted to work first shift. They had seniority for that. All the new technicians had two choices: work second shift, or work third shift. Donna Spicer, Bob Wallace, Ron Konezski (sp?), John Petreaus (sp?) and Tom Pomper are Ampex technicians from Pittsburgh. They graduated from electronics school together. I worked with them on second shift. All of us (and about fifteen other technicians) started working at Ampex on the same day.
The VPR-2 is a one-inch, "type-C" format, video tape recorder. The video signal gets FM modulated, RF equalized, and recorded onto tape in a flat bandwidth from 8 mHz to 10 mHz. When it's played back from tape the signal gets RF equalized, and then it's demodulated back into video. There's a signal mode called "EE" or electronics-to-electronics. That's when we look at the video RF signals and video baseband signals mod/demod path without running tapes. We used a lot of standard test signals to analyze these systems and do health-checks. EE signal mode has to work perfectly before attempting to record or playback video tapes correctly. Audio signals are recorded and played back identically to regular audio tape recorders by using a fixed head stack.
My first night working at Ampex in 1979 was testing VPR-2 RF Equalizer circuit boards. That was one of the coolest nights in my technician career. The work bench looked like a scientific laboratory. There was a stack of Lambda power supplies, a special test fixture for Equalizer boards, several Tektronix television signal generators, an HP tracking/sweep generator, an HP spectrum analyzer, a Tektronix oscilloscope, Fluke DVM, a freguency counter, and a technician tool kit. Ampex's test procedure manual for RF Equalizer boards was about fifty pages long. Mostly it's a long series of signal generation and signal sweeps. There are dozens of signal measurements and alignment procedures. Sometimes the boards didn't work right because they had manufacturing defects – anything you could imagine – and you had to fix them. A very cool technician named Brad Newberry (sp?) helped me out a couple times that evening. To my amazement, I was able to get one RF Equalizer board all the way through Ampex's complex test procedure and working perfectly. I "shipped it" that evening. During the first several months, I was testing RF Equalizer boards, Modulator boards, and Demodulator boards. "A-693" is my Ampex technician tester number. The boards I passed have my number on them.
Ampex was selling hundreds of VPR-2s. Customers around the world kept demanding more of them. Factory production schedules were "tight". I 'wondered' into our VPR-2 system test room one night during my first week at Ampex. It was pretty high pressure for the technicians who were testing the VPR-2 systems. A couple of technicians told me, "Hey man, you shouldn't be seen or "caught hanging out" in our VPR-2 system test room. 'The Man' doesn't like that." I said, "Hey brother, I'm trying to train myself on these video tape recorders. Show me how the VPR-2 works." Just then, an Ampex supervisor came by and started yelling at me for doing that. As I was being escorted out of the room, and getting 'a lecture', a systems technician named Jim Pirtle said to me, "Hey kid, where are you from?" I told him, "I'm just punk-kid from New Jersey!" Pirtle asked me, "Hey man, do you know where Hackensack is?" I hadn't heard that name in years. "I was born in Hackensack Hospital," how's that? Pirtle told me he was working in Hackensack not too long ago. Ampex had a service center there. He said he was a field engineeer and he worked for a guy named Al Slater. "Never heard of him," I said, as the door slammed shut behind me.
We were facing some stiff competition, primarily from Asian companies such as Sony, Matsushita, JVC, and Panasonic. Customers were buying more and more equipment from them. Ampex still had a huge lineup of audio and video products. One month after I started working for them, the plant manager at our Ampex factory told us it was "over". We were told, "Ampex started out in Audio by building the first commercial tape recorders. But from now on, we will no longer manufacture Ampex audio tape recorders in our Colorado Springs factory. It's too expensive in today's economic climate. Our shareholders need more profits. We're entering a new age, and we can do this. From now on, Ampex audio tape recorders will be manufactured in Juárez, Mexico." For the next few days, Ampex supervisors instructed me and the technicians on my line to "box up this audio test line and ship it to Mexico." We all complied. It's called outsourcing!
One night I came into work after a few months on the job and my supervisor, Thomas Lowe, told me he had something special for me: Scanner Servo boards. He told me the VPR-2 final system test room was running low on them. Ampex didn't have a scanner servo testing station. They did have a Scanner Room next to our testing line. They made the scanner assembly. The Head Department made the video heads. The video heads are mounted inside the upper scanner next to the RF amplifier - see photo. The upper scanner rotates at 3600 rpm when tapes are running. The motor is housed inside the bottom of the scanner. The VPR-2 has four motors: supply reel, take-up reel, capstan, and scanner. This photo shows what the motor drive amplifiers in the back of the machine looked like. This photo shows what the circuit board chassis in the front of the machine looked like. The scanner servo board is the eleventh board from the left. VPR-2s were stacking up this night because they ran out of scanner servo boards. Ampex had 3 shifts working 24 hours a day, Monday - Friday. We often worked on Saturdays, and once in awhile we worked Sundays. We had to set up a VPR-2 tape deck in my line test area. I was given two or three dozen new scanner servo boards. None of them worked. All of them had electronic defects. Tom Lowe said, "Just fix the damned things, that's all." I had a lot of fun troubleshooting and fixing them. Then I quickly tested them carefully. The Ampex supervisors had big smiles on their faces when I was finished.
About six months on the job and Tom Lowe told me that Ampex engineers needed an extra technician from our line to go out to Redwood City. They needed help testing some new circuit boards for the new VPR-2B. Tom said to me, "This is important right now. These tape decks need to go to our TV Network customer in Lake Placid. The winter olympic games are broadcasting from there. The broadcast engineers need the new VPR-2Bs shipped directly to their Olympic Broadcasting Operations Center. We're not set up in Colorado Springs yet to test these new circuit boards here. We need your help by going to Redwood City and testing them out there. I'm counting on you." I couldn't believe Tom Lowe said that to me. I was far from being the sharpest technician. But it was simple. Tom Lowe and I both knew I would get the job done on time. While in Redwood City, I had the honor of meeting the Ampex engineer who invented the AST (automatic scan tracking) system for Ampex. I forget his name. AST technology is applied to the video heads by using a piezoelectric substrate design for the AST video head. The tape deck's servoes are using AST dithering. A high-voltage potential (+ / - 250V DC) is continuously applied to the piezoelectric substrate, upon which the AST playback video head is mounted. This keeps the video head perfectly tracking the recorded signal during playback, regardless of the tape speed, even if the machine is stopped (still-frame mode). This is how one-inch analog video tape decks play back video signals from magnetic tape perfectly during slow-motion playbacks, fast-motion playbacks, and still-frame playbacks.
Phil Sipple, Dennis Compton, Chris Busby, Tom Byrd, and Steve Maroucci (sp?) are some of the guys on my shift who were working in Ampex's Quad FST (final system test). Their room was adjacent to my test area. I used to go in there to get downtime. They showed me everything about the Ampex quad video tape recorders they were testing and shipping. It was very laid-back in there. Production levels for Quads were low. One-inch Helical video tape recorders were replacing them. The Quad FST technicians were testing AVR-2 decks and a few AVR-3 decks. Phil and Dennis were testing and shipping ACR-25 Quad cart machines. That was Totally Amazing to see! "In 1970, Ampex introduces the ACR-25, the first automatic robotic library system for the recording and playback of television commercials." [ source: Ampex history ] Check out this "Video Log" from December 23, 1995: Andy explains The ACR 25B.
Steve Maroucci, Chris Busby, and I lived in Manitou Springs. I carpooled a few times with Steve. He had a home about a half mile away from me. I remember him telling me about Ampex sending him to Iraq once, a couple of years earlier, and he installed some quads there. Chris Busby had a home and lived a block or two from my place. I was living at in apartment at the Cliff House. Chris was from Maine. He had the accent to go with it. We used to ride bicycles together around town and into Garden of the Gods.
One weekend in early December 1980, Ampex technician Ken Reynolds and I drove out to Buena Vista early Saturday morning. We backpacked into the Collegiate Peaks Wilderness Area. It was dark by the time we got to the treeline. We made base-camp in the snow next to Mt. Columbia. On Sunday we hiked up to the top, a fourteener.
Ampex technician Monte Barry (me) on Mt. Columbia summit
- photo by Ken Reynolds using my Rollei 35 S camera -
We broke down our camp and backpacked out to our truck. It might have been daylight by the time we made it home. Both of us made it to work on time Monday at 3pm. Ken Reynolds and I went on another backpacking trip in the Sangre De Cristo mountains. We climbed Humboldt peak (a fourteener). I have lots of photos.
The craziest weekend happened when a bunch of Ampex technicians and me went to Buena Vista in John Petraeus's (sp?) 4WD Scout. We found the backwater 4WD road I knew about. John said, "I'll get us up there." We went four-wheelin' to the top of the road. This is the trailhead for Mt. Harvard. This route saved us one day's worth of backpacking. I think John trashed his muffler's tailpipe on that one! We hiked to the treeline and set up our camp. The next day me and a couple of Ampex technicians hiked to Mt. Harvard's summit (a fourteener, 2nd tallest peak in Colorado). Another weekend in 1980 me and Ampex tech Tom Byrd climbed Long's Peak, sort of.
The best camping trip I did with Ampex technicians was in Chicago Basin, in southwestern Colorado. Bob Ataldo went there ahead of me. He told me to meet him at the treeline. He went with a few old friends from his home town of Rochester. They were on vacation in Colorado. They decided to go camping in Chicago Basin. I drove by myself to Durango. Chicago Basin can be accessed by riding the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad and getting off at Needleton. It's a trailhead in the middle of nowhere. From there it's a long day's hike to get to Chicago Basin's treeline. Some people take two days. I backpacked it in one day. I found Bob Ataldo and his friends. They had been camping there a few days. I set up my camp next to theirs. It's a great story and I have lots of photos. The four fourteeners on top of Chicago Basin are Mount Eolus, North Eolus, Windom Peak, and Sunlight Peak. When I climbed to the top of Sunlight Peak, I was hit by lightning. Lucky for me it was only a small dose of electricity. My hair frizzed up! I made it back to work at Ampex okay.
I also worked in the VPR-2B's TBC-2B system test area for one year. TBCs are digital video Time Base Correctors. They are very sophisticated digital video processing systems. This photo shows what the TBC-2B chassis and electronics bay looked like. Lastly, I worked in VPR-2B final system test room for a couple of months. This photo shows what VPR-2B video tape recorders looked like.
Driving VW beetles was my ticket to freedom and independence from 1974 to 1981. I had several of them. VWs were cheap, plentiful, reliable, and very robust cars. They got good gas mileage, were easy to maintain, and they had good traction in the snow. Swapping VW engines between car-bodies was a very common practice. I did that once. It didn't matter if you blew up the engine or destroyed the car. By far, driving VWs in this era was the most affordable way to go. You'd be surprised how much stuff fits inside them. VWs had good reputations. I am very thankful for having them around. That's how I afforded my lifestyle; becoming a hippie and converting to cowboy; and being a taper, soundman, and electronics technician. I was able to pay cash to buy tape decks and sound equipment with the money I saved. I paid off my electronics school's student-loan debt in two years because I drove a VW. I was driving my VW when I worked for Vidar and Ampex.
John Muir's Idiot's Guide to Volkswagon Repairs manual was mandatory to have: "First published in 1969, this classic manual of automotive repair equips VW owners with the knowledge to handle every situation they will come across with any air-cooled Volkswagen built through 1978, including Bugs, Karmann Ghias, vans, and campers. With easy-to-understand, fun-to-read information — for novice and veteran mechanics alike — anecdotal descriptions, and clear language, this book takes the mystery out of diagnostic, maintenance, and repair procedures, and offers some chuckles along the way." The VW idiot guide even listed what tools you needed to carry in the car, and how to use them. Maintaining VW bugs was pretty damned easy! It was definitely cheap! There were millions of them on the road and you rarely saw one broken down on highways or roadsides. I had a few breakdowns, everyone did. Thank you, John Muir, for helping me out! I sold my last VW bug to Ampex technician John Taco in the summer of 1981.
I had a new job lined up. I found out about it from another Ampex technician. This was my first time resigning from Ampex. I flew down to the Caribbean with a few suitcases. My new job was a Studio Supervisor gig at WTJX, a TV station in St. Thomas, in the Virgin Islands. I was in St. Thomas for only two days! I never started working at the TV station. I quit the night before I ever met the chief engineer "in person". He lived on a sailboat in St. Johns. What the hell was I thinking? Like I said, I'm an idiot! I was homesick quick! I flew home to NJ the next day. I did some job hunting. There were many good job offers for me to consider. I drove out to Estes Park for a couple of weeks to think about it, and I hung out with my friends in the swing band Arabesque.
John Turner was the Chief Engineer of Turner Engineering. Turner Engineering did the installation work for USA Network's original Cable TV transmission center. USA Network's facility was built and located in the same building as Edwin Armstrong's experimental FM radio station. Edwin Howard Armstrong, pioneer radio inventor, is the father of FM radio. Armstrong Tower is 425 feet tall and sits atop the Palisades Cliffs in Alpine, NJ. Steve Seville was the Director of Engineering for USA Network. When I interviewed with him, he said to me, "We'd like to hire you because you used to work for Ampex." I started working for him when I returned from Estes Park. It was Halloween. I was the Engineer in Charge for USA Network in 1981 and 1982.
Monte Barry aligning an Ampex VPR-2B at USA Network
I first met Ampex field engineers Tom Saylor and Jeff Thelman when I needed Ampex replacement parts for the VPR-2B tape recorders in Alpine, NJ. Here's a photo showing USA Network had ten VPR-2Bs. About eight months later Tom and Jeff told me their Ampex office was looking to hire a field engineer. They said, "We used to have to make service calls to USA Network all the time. But since you've been working for them, we haven't made any service calls there. We need a new field service engineer. You used to work for Ampex. You should apply." What a coincidence! I told them, "USA Network recently announced they're going to move our transmission facility from Alpine, NJ to Hauppauge, NY - out in Long Island. HBO is building their new transsmission center there. Time Warner is HBO's parent company. Time Warner also owns one-third of USA Network. Game Over! My brother works as an air traffic controller. He worked his first gig at the air traffic control center in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. He hated it out there because of the bottleneck commuting nightmare getting in and out of Long Island. He transferred to a air controller center in the San Francisco area because of that! I'm applying for field service!" All three of us were laughing. "You need to talk to Al Slater," they said. "He's the manager." I told them, "A guy named Jim Pirtle used to work as a field engineer for that guy. I met Pirtle when I worked for Ampex in Colorado Springs. Pirtle is a very cool guy!" I started working for Ampex again, in Allendale, NJ as a field service engineer, from 1982 - 1984.
I do not have an engineering degree. Many Ampex field engineers had engineering degrees. Most of them went to the front of the line. Some Ampex service engineers had two-year degrees. My case was unorthodox. I had a patch-worked two year degree in electronics. My first year was at RETS, Sept '73 - June '74. I went to Elkins in Nashville in April '75 - June '75. I finished Elkins when I got my FCC 1st Class broadcasting license in Atlanta in June '75. I worked in my first TV station in Louisville, KY in Jan '76 while I was soundman with Bluegrass Alliance. My second year of electronics school was at UEI in Portland, Oregon, Sept '77 - June '78. I worked in my second TV station while I was going to school there. I got the Ship Radar Endorsement for my FCC license as a "trophy" while I was in Portland.
Ampex field engineers were highly trained professionals. Ampex provided classes for their employees and their customers. I attended many classes for Ampex products. I taped some of them. All of my classes were taught in Redwood City's Training Center, except for the TBC-2B course I attended when I worked in Colorado Springs. A list of my Ampex Training Certificates is in the table below.
During one Redwood City trip that Ampex and Bob Natwick sent me on, I listened to Grateful Dead soundboard master tapes playing at an Ampex audio design engineer's house.
Life was pretty good for a punk-kid, turned-hippie, who was now an electronics technician working for Ampex as a service engineer during the early 1980s... if you didn't mind living and working in the NJ / NYC metro-area's rat race. Most of my days were spent servicing Ampex equipment in New York City's midtown and lower Manhattan. The Allendale office serviced the northeast region. I went to all the upstate New York cities a bunch of times. I made many trips to Buffalo, Rochester and Syracuse. I hit all the big cities in Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts. I went to Boston a bunch of times. I think I was only sent to Maine once. I don't remember going to Vermont or New Hampshire.
New York City is where all the action is. The "Madison Avenue" ad agencies are there. Many independent producers "glued everything together." We had quite a few large video production houses, and there were dozens of post-production boutiques with CMX edit suites. The television networks were located there, and so was HBO. Many cable TV network operations were in the area. The United Nations had a huge amount of Ampex gear inside. MTV's new facility was located on Long Island, in the Hauppauge area. Many transmission centers started popping up out there after that. Lots of TV stations are located in the New York City metropolitan area. Dozens of our corporate customers had brand new video systems and lots of Ampex equipment. AF Associates was a large video systems engineering firm with a big warehouse in Northvale, New Jersey. They designed and installed many video systems in the area. Most of their systems had Ampex equipment. We installed and serviced all the Ampex equipment at these places. Ampex field engineers did sales-assisted 'demos', installation 'check-outs', upgrades, and warranty or billable services.
Charlex was our best and most creative Ampex video customer. That's what I always thought. They were in New York City. This was Charlie Levi and Alex Weil's Charlex. I went there quite a few times. These two put their first names together to form Charlex. They started in 1979 to work on commercials. It's still located at the same place: 2 West 45th Street, on the 7th Floor. In 1983, they directed the music video for The Cars, "You Might Think", for which they were awarded the "Video of the Year" MTV Video Music Award. It's probably the most amazing and most fascinating thing I ever saw an Ampex customer do. They used Ampex VPR-3 video tape recorders, CMX edit-controllers, a Quantel Paint Box or two, an Ampex ADO or two, and very good video production switchers. I can't recall if they had their Abekas A62 digital disk recorder yet. That was brand new. They also had a very cool motion-control table setup at Charlex. They were doing stop-frame animation with it. Paul Mitchell was the Chief Engineer. [ Charlex Filmography - Wikipedia, Charlex ]
When Ampex field engineers made service calls to these places, we were offered jobs and employment from most of our customers. It was routine... being offered great jobs that paid a lot. This happened a couple of times a week. It was usually the same situation. We'd ask them, "Why do you want to hire me?" Their response was always the same. "You work for Ampex," a voice droned out. Each one of us heard that speech dozens of times! Our Ampex field service engineer gigs were "the best job-interview jobs we ever had."
Al Slater hired me to work for Ampex in Allendale. He comes from the old Ampex guard. He used to be a service engineer for Ampex. Allendale's sales and service center used to be located in Hackensack, NJ. That's when Al Slater became the Manager. Many years later Ampex expanded this office. They moved it to a new location in Allendale. Ampex wanted a larger sales and service center, and they needed better access to the highways we traveled. I started working there June 1982. One year later Al Slater was replaced by Bob Natwick. We had four sales engineers, eight field service engineers, and several great gals in the office while I was working there. In 1982 and 1983, Allendale's sales of Ampex equipment was $50 million per year! ADOs were selling like crazy. Shep Siegel was Ampex's new "super-star kid" engineer with ADO. The first ten ADOs sold for $250,000 each! After that, I recall they were selling for $180,000 each. I installed and serviced many ADOs for Ampex.
Shep Siegel left Ampex in late '82 or early '83, and he started up a new company named Datacube. Jim Pirtle replaced Shep, and he became Ampex's new ADO tech-support engineer in Redwood City. On May 13, 1983, I completed my ADO training course in Redwood City's training center. Jim Pirtle taught the ADO class.
Grant and Craig were the senior sales engineers in the Allendale office. I don't remember their last names, but they sold boatloads of Ampex video equipment to our biggest customers. I remember working with sales engineers Art Shifrin and Bruce Ballentine (sp?). Ampex sales engineers and field engineers attended all the big trade shows, and many smaller ones too. Ampex would always have a large booth at the big trade shows. They filled it with dazzling equipment. Ampex also loaned dozens of new tape recorders to other vendors for their booths. Field engineers did the installations. Ampex gear was everywhere! They had us field engineers working like dogs at these trade shows. It was hard work, but it was fun. We worked very long hours at trade shows. We did a lot of sales support work too. Ampex engineers loved to do equipment demos. The Ampex Product Managers gave the best demos. Ampex sales engineers did very, very well at the trade shows!
In the early 1980s Ampex was making and selling more and more video tape recorders. Most of them were VPR-3, VPR-2B, VPR-80, and VPR-5 models. These were their one-inch helical decks. Ampex was making and selling video production switchers (4100 series, and the AVC series), making and selling cameras, making and selling a digital paint box (AVA), making and selling a digital still store (ESS), making and selling a computerized editing system (ACE), selling someone else's camcorder (ARC), and making and selling a line of audio tape recorders.
I serviced Ampex equipment in New York City for a couple of years. Allendale's field engineers in the early 1980s were Jeff Thelman, Tom Saylor, myself (Monte Barry), Harry Boettcher (sp?), Gus (last name?) - [ Gus was replaced by Rick Bowley, a former Ampex service engineer at the Hackensack office ], Phil Bernal, Dave Bancroft, and Ray Ostrum. Ray was our field engineering supervisor. He used to work in the Ampex factory in Colorado Springs, before I worked there. Ray Ostrum was promoted to Sales Engineer about 1983. Rick Bowley replaced Ray Ostrum as the Service Engineering Supervisor. Ampex also made their own tape. They had a Magnetic Tape Division and a factory with headquarters in Opelika, Alabama. Two Ampex Magnetic Tape sales engineers had offices in the Allendale service center when I worked there. One of them was named George.
One day in 1983 or 1984, corporate managers from Redwood City told us that Ampex was "getting out of Audio 'for good'." Bob Natwick told Bruce Ballantine and me to go into New York City and "explain things" to all our audio customers. I said to Bob, "Ampex audio tape recorders started getting manufactured in Juárez, Mexico in 1979. Ampex factory supervisors in Colorado instructed me and the technicians on my line to "box up this audio test line and ship it to Mexico." We all complied. We called it outsourcing! What's it called now?" Bob told us, "Make sure you tell our Audio customers we value them very highly. Ampex service engineers will continue to provide the best service in the industry."
By the summer of 1984 I was homesick for my righteous GD-Cowboy-Hippie-Freak lifestyle in Colorado. I quietly put out the word. I wanted to get back out there. An Ampex "insider" friend of mine told me about a producer "entrepreneur" dude in Denver. That guy was looking to buy a bunch of new Ampex equipment. That's how I set up a gig as his chief engineer. He was building a new video production facility in an office tower in downtown Denver. He also had a big truck. They were doing mobile TV productions and live sports on location. I relocated to Denver for this gig. The producer dude paid for all my moving expenses. After a couple of weeks I found out this guy was full of shit. I resigned on the spot, and I left that place immediately! About a month later I met Glenn Hill. Here's a 1985 photo: L to R is Tim, Monte, Glenn on Mt Princeton summit. Glenn was working for Computer Image Corporation in Denver. Years earlier, Computer Image designed, built, and installed the first computer animation systems in the world. In 1984 Glenn Hill was the chief engineer for their video production entity, and he was the tech-support engineer for their manufacturing entity. This was while Computer Image was still making and selling their System IV computer animation system. Glenn told all the animators, the video production crew, the art department, the managers, the software engineers, and the electronics design engineers at Computer Image, "Monte used to work for Ampex." They hired me as their new chief engineer for productions. I worked for the Computer Image Productions entity which was d.b.a. KDS, Kinetic Design Systems.
- designed and built by Computer Image Corporation in Denver -
Scanimate computer animation system used analog video processing
watch their Dream Machine movie trailer on YouTube - 01:38 length
The 12th annual Telluride Bluegrass Festival – June 21-23, 1985 "lost tapes" lineup
Emmylou Harris and the Hot Band • John Hartford • Seldom Scene • Tony Trischka and Skyline • Hot Rize • Tony Rice • Nashville Bluegrass Band • Chris Daniels and the Kings • New Grass Revival • Doc and Merle Watson • The David Grisman Quintet • Peter Rowan and Crucial Country • Mark O’Connor • Bryan Bowers • Alaska’s Hobo Jim
I lived a happy-go-lucky, hippie-freak lifestyle. I really lucked out in life! Thank you, Ampex.
Ampex managers never used anti-suicide safety nets when we built a/v devices! We were happy workers!
Apple & Foxconn managers use anti-suicide safety nets to build all thier iPhone & iPad a/v devices. WtF?
"News Update" smoke and mirrors image - rendered on my PC in 3D Studio ver 2.0, DOS (~1991)
What the hell happened?
"Somewhere in recent American history, probably in the last 30 years, we changed our economic values. The economic value used to measure the economy in employment: how many people are employed; what their wages were. Then somewhere along the line, it became a stockholder, a shareholder economy." [source: Mark Shields ] Today, the Dow Jones index, the NASDAQ index, the S&P 500 index, and stock share prices are the main focus of our economy. "Market forces" are dictating our lives. Families and communities are falling apart because of this new form of extreme capitalism. Our middle class society is dying. People like me have been deleted from society, and from our history. Our quality of life, the Earth's environment, sustainable living, job security, and America's national pride are becoming worthless. Why throw it away like this?
|© Monte B Cowboy • all rights reserved • MonteVideo Grafix • a 420-seed, non-organization|
- photo of me typing this for The Archive -
|Monte patrolling the Grey Rock Trail||Monte patrolling the Poudre River Trail|
|Poster:||high flow||Date:||Feb 14, 2014 12:16pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more info about Ampex|
|Poster:||deejaypee||Date:||Jan 5, 2012 11:43am|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|
|Poster:||Monte B Cowboy||Date:||Dec 6, 2013 12:41pm|
|Forum:||GratefulDead||Subject:||Re: more Europe '72 recording info|